Updated: Jan 3, 2019
Iconic fashion designer Ralph Lauren didn’t plan to become a designer. Yet as a fashionable kid growing up in the Bronx, NY, he had ideas about how ties should look. So he went to work for a tie company in his 20’s, and soon began designing and selling his own ties.
A watershed moment in his career came when Bloomingdale’s – an equally iconic NYC-based department store – offered to place an order for his ties…as long as Lauren agreed to change the styles and sell them under the Bloomingdale’s label. Lauren turned them down.
Although a fledgling designer, Lauren believed in his own designs and in his emerging vision for his brand. “It built my confidence up. I got a sense of who I was,” Lauren recalls. “This was done with instincts, not with paper and figuring it all out ... no focus groups. It was done with guts and instincts.”¹
Lauren’s example shows how trusting your gut is often critical to talent development and leadership development. As you develop your team, gut trusting – or trusting your instincts – can help your team grow exponentially: conquering stretch assignments, driving innovation, and pivoting into completely new areas (rather than quitting). Yet, "gut trusting" doesn’t always come…instinctively.
Building Your Gut-Trusting Skills
As a generally intuitive person, I’ve often trusted my gut throughout my career. The decisions didn’t always work as planned, but the confidence and wisdom I gained were invaluable. Equally important, I’ve had managers and senior leaders trust their instincts about me – allowing me to head high-profile initiatives, pushing me out of my comfort zone, and helping me switch careers, like when I moved from internal communications into human resources without an HR background. And I have great respect for those who went with their gut for me.
"This was done with instincts, not with paper and figuring it all out..." -- Ralph Lauren
If your gut usually tells you to play it safe, go for an extremely qualified new hire vs. someone internally, or focus on your go-to person for tough assignments, it’s time to build new gut-trusting skills. Here are a few areas that are ripe for building new perceptions and instincts about members of your team, which can greatly increase the success of your talent development and leadership development efforts:
Job vacancy on your team: Avoid loading a job description with everything but the kitchen sink in hopes of bringing in someone just like – or even 10x more experienced than – the person who vacated the spot. Instead, try talking to different members of the team about their instincts. Does someone have good instincts about what’s needed in the role, and a vision for how they’d deliver solutions for those needs?
Project with a long lead time: Time affords the chance for someone to get up-to-speed and soar. If given enough time, who could make connections, ask the right questions and develop a successful plan, knowing when to ask for help as they’re implementing?
A different “go-to”: If your immediate instincts consistently draw you to the same 1 or 2 people, take time to consider other team members who could tackle an assignment. Be willing to set aside old instincts by going with someone else on the team, someone who could bring something new to the table.
What trust-your-gut opportunities can you create for your team? What are their instincts telling them about potential experiential development opportunities? What opportunities are you overlooking for yourself?
¹Hoyt, Alex; Ralph Lauren Looks Back on 50 Years of Enduring Style; The National (Amtrak); Oct/Nov 2018
About the Author: For over 20 years, Marcelle has honed her craft as certified leadership coach and experiential development strategist within diverse Fortune 100 companies and the defense industry, coaching and advising everyone from C-Suite executives and leadership teams, to front-line managers and new hires. She’s masterful at enhancing existing talent development processes by infusing “job mixology” -- the ideal blend of job-related experiences, certified coaching and creative strategies needed to ensure development efforts fuel lasting results. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.